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July 2013

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Mixing for Web Series Big sound for all screens. By Jennifer Walden There are so many variables in mixing a Web series. It's not an easy job. There are no set guidelines for levels. There are no set guidelines for encoding the audio — something the mixer has no control over. You spend tons of time getting a mix perfect and then it gets squashed during the encoding process. Frustrating! Viewers listen to playback on everything... from home theater 5.1 set-ups to iPhone speakers. For these true audio pros, it never comes down to, "Oh, this is just a Web series. It's no big deal." They bring their A game (and A studio) to every show, despite time crunches, despite budget constraints, and in the face of so many unknowns. ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT Supervising sound editor Kevin W. Buchholz recently completed Season 4 of Arrested Development, now available on Netflix. His audio team includes re-recording mixers Sherry Klein and Alexey Mohr at Larson Studios ( in Hollywood. Larson offers nine dub stages split between two locations, a facility on Sunset Blvd. and their Wilcox Ave. location, which is only two blocks away. Arrested Development was mixed in both locations. As a full-service audio post facility, Larson Studios offers 7.1 mixing, sound design, Foley, ADR, dialog editorial and everything in between. Arrested Development, created by Mitch Hurwitz, is now a Web series. All 15 episodes were made available on Netflix the same day. Keeping the sound consistent across all 15 episodes, from the mix levels to the details in the ambience, was absolutely necessary because viewers can jump from episode to episode, or watch all the episodes back to back. To maintain a consistent level, re-recording mixer Klein, who handled the dialog and music for 10 episodes, set a -23 dB dialog norm for everyone to adhere to. "We had no broadcast constraints in terms of what our dialog norms had to be, so that was what we used to maintain levels. The biggest challenge in the beginning was figuring out how we were going to make all this play at once, knowing that people were going to jump around." 32 Post • July 2013 The show is mixed in 5.1, much like a typical network show, but Buchholz notes that since Netflix content is streaming and there are no broadcast processing treatments, the team had the freedom to create a dynamic mix that best conveyed the story. Re-recording mixer Mohr handled the sound effects on four episodes. "The best opportunity of the delivery medium was having that freedom and confidence that as you crafted it, so shall it play," he says. "That is really a wonderful treat; you're not doing something that you hope will hit the broadcast treatment in a favorable way. The mix will play exactly as you built it. We love Netflix. We love streaming. We're happy for the future." When viewers are watching on their smart phones, tablets or laptops, they'll probably be listening over headphones. Mohr feels a headphone mix enables them to play sounds at a more subtle level and still be confident the details in the effects will come through. "Arrested Development has many layers to the onion and is clearly designed to be re-watched and reconsidered. One episode is relative to the next. Mixing for headphones affords us the ability to keep sound effects in a lower pocket and still feel confident that the joke will play and people will still understand what they're seeing." He also notes that a good mix is a good mix that will translate on any number of playback systems, provided the mix is delivered the way it was created. Since the show isn't going through any broadcast processing, "we could craft something that's going to sound good on a large number of playback systems, including headphones." Now that Arrested Development is a Web series, the show's runtimes are longer. For broadcast, a half-hour show is about 22 minutes, making time for commercial breaks. With no breaks to account for, the episodes in Season 4 are 28-38 minutes long. Mohr notes the content is also more dense. "The jokes come quickly. The call backs are frequent. The cuts are frequent. The storytelling is very involved and deep." According to Buchholz, "Arrested Development has stories coming together in realtime and being told from different perspectives." He was able to recall scenes from prior episodes, and export elements

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